Friday, October 30, 2009

Geek-End Update, Saturday, October 31, 2009

I hope that you have been checking out the great photos from FoxxFur and PeterRabbit over at Luau Cove Marina. They post three images a week and their shots are truly unique. Foxxfur is the owner of Passport to Dream Old & New--she is one of the foremost experts in themed design and her posts are always eye-opening and intellectually inspiring.

This is one of my favorite shots from the past week:

Monday, October 26, 2009

Walt, El Grupo and North Carolina!

Michael Crawford, at the awesome Progress City, USA, has posted information about bringing the film Walt and El Grupo to North Carolina.
I have one last note, for our readers in North Carolina and southern Virginia. Some of us in the area are looking for a local theater that is willing to screen Ted Thomas’s Walt and El Grupo. So far, the closest engagements have been in Washington, D.C., but the filmmakers would love to get it in a wider release. As the best independent theatre in the area is the Carolina Theatre in Durham, we thought we’d focus our efforts there. If anyone reading this is in the region and is interested, please drop the theater a call or an email and ask them to book the film!
Call the Administrative offices at 919-560-3040.

Film suggestions should be sent to Phil Seib, the Cinema Operations Manager. Phil's e-mail address is

Friday, October 23, 2009

Geek-End Update, Saturday, October 24, 2009

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

DVD Review: The Legend of the Seeker

Legend of the Seeker: The Complete First Season 2009, five discs, 22 episodes.

This was a series that completely swept by me undetected last year. A friend recommended that I try it and I had it added to my Netflix queue. When I was given the opportunity to receive a review copy, I jumped on it. I am very glad that I did!

The television show was produced for syndication by ABC Studios and distributed by Disney-ABC Studios. There are some hefty names attached to the series: Sam Raimi (of Spiderman fame) produced and developed the series; Robert Tapert (Xena: Warrior Princess); and Terry Goodkind (author of the Sword of Truth series of books). The series is based on the events in the Sword of Truth book series and like most adaptations, follows the books as closely as possible. Since the show is a one-hour weekly broadcast, the producers followed the overarching storyline and did their best to stay true to the characters created by Terry Goodkind.
In the province known as Westland, a wizard reveals to ordinary woodsman Richard Cypher (played by Craig Horner) the truth: that he is a child of prophecy, the first true Seeker the world has known in a thousand years, destined to wield the powerful Sword of Truth and defeat the evil tyrant Darken Rahlan. A mysterious woman named Kahlan Amnell (played by Bridget Regan), and a wizard named Zeddicus Zu'l Zorander (played by Bruce Spence) join the Seeker on his quest.
The first two episodes feel rather awkward, but by the third one we were drawn into the series and the characters. Some of the events and characters felt rather like a cliche until the world of the Seeker expanded and we met other characters while learning the powers of the Wizard, the Confessor and the Seeker. The characters grow and you truly start to care for them and the relationships they are creating.

The action scenes during the first half of the season are all played in slow-motion, which helps tone down the gore of fighting with swords. The scenes are intense and would probably be too much for anyone under age ten. I thought the special effects were outstanding for a broadcast television show and added to the story instead of detracting from it. The show was filmed in New Zealand and takes advantage of the beautiful scenery; you never quite get the feeling that it is taking place in our world. I marveled at how the female lead (Kahlan) was able to keep her Confessor's robes so white--especially during fight scenes and running through the forests. Maybe the wizard had a great dry cleaning spell!

If you are a fan of action/fantasy shows, the Lord of the Rings movies or sci-fi/fantasy novels, then you will love this show. Terry Goodkind fans will be pleased; he has given the show his stamp of approval and is working with the writing team on each episode.

The second seasons starts on November 7!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Geek-End Update, Saturday, October 17, 2009

This update covers 10/4 to 10/16.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Meet Our Neighbor: AJ from the Disney Food Blog

The Disney blog-o-sphere has grown tremendously over the past few years with the addition of quite a few talented bloggers. It can be confusing to peruse all of the different sites and to try and place a person with a site. Therefore, Andrew and I decided that we wanted to highlight our good blogging buddies and ask them to answer a series of precise and predetermined questions. Andrew and I spent years in a Disney think-tank perfecting the questions presented below. For this Meet Our Neighbor segment, we asked AJ from The Disney Food Blog to muddle through our questions. AJ has a passion for dining at Walt Disney World and her blog is always full of tantalizing and tempting photos of mouth-watering eats.

Don't forget our other Meet Our Neighbor posts:

What is your earliest Disney memory?
Standing in the roped off, outdoor queue line for Journey into Your Imagination during Spring Break in unbearable heat. I don't know WHY my parents did that to themselves.

What is your single favorite attraction?
Space Mountain, but only when riding in the front of the car!

What is your favorite Disney and non-Disney movie?
Disney: Bedknobs and Broomsticks
Non-Disney: White Christmas

What is your least favorite park?
In Walt Disney World, I'd have to say DHS for atmosphere. It feels patch worked over there; I never know what I'm supposed to be experiencing from one section to the next. Maybe it's because the themeing is subtle in some areas; I'm just not keen enough to catch it.

What is your favorite park?
Again, in WDW, probably Epcot. It's a nostalgic thing for me. It was always my favorite as a kid -- World of Motion and Horizons were my favorite rides in Disney World. I actually don't remember much about visiting Magic Kingdom as a kid, but Epcot will always be a fond memory.
Now, walking into the park and hearing that beloved Epcot background loop soundtrack makes me feel like a kid every time.

Who is your favorite Disney character?
Mickey Mouse. I really wanted to answer something else, like the Evil Queen or Pinocchio. But that wouldn't be true. Every time I see Mickey Mouse my heart starts beating faster. And I'm a sucker for the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. I already miss Wayne Allwine.

What is your favorite Disney song?
I'll have to go with nostalgia again on this one! My dad always bought park soundtracks on vinyl and somehow rigged up a way for us to listen to them in the car on the drive between Buffalo and Florida every year, so the themes from American Adventure, World of Motion, O Canada, and the other Epcot rides were burned into our brains. I was always a fan of Veggie Veggie Fruit Fruit, but I'm pretty sure that's because I'd lobbied pretty hard to get a plush version of the mariachi tomato.

If you could switch places with any historical or living Disney employee,who would it be and why?
I'm not sure about this one, so I'm going to say the first thing that popped into my head: Julie Andrews. She counts as a "Disney employee," right? I want to be Mary Poppins.

What is you're must eat food at WDW?
One!? You know I write the Disney Food Blog, right?! My "must eat" changes every time I eat at a new restaurant. Dole Whips, Tonga Toast, Mickey head rice crispy treats, Yachtsman steak with garlic butter, ooey gooey toffee cake from Liberty Tree Tavern, Mickey waffles...I think today my answer is going to be the Potato and Leek Soup from Rose and Crown. That's what I'm most looking forward to on my next trip.

Favorite place to stay at WDW?
I love all of the Disney hotels, but I feel most at home at Wilderness Lodge. Though walking to Magic Kingdom from the Contemporary and to Epcot from the Beach and Yacht Clubs and Boardwalk is pretty great...

What is your favorite place to be at WDW?
The Carolwood-Pacific Room at the Wilderness Lodge Villas when it's cold outside.

What is your favorite restaurant?
Jiko, California Grill, Citricos, Yachtsman Steakhouse, Casey's Corner, Le Cellier, Liberty Tree Tavern, Cinderella's Royal Table, Beaches and Cream, and the Pop Century Food Court.

What is the first thing you want to do on your next trip?
I've really had a hankering to ride the Haunted Mansion. All of the 40th Anniversary news made me excited to see things I'd never noticed before.

What is your favorite fireworks show?
Christmas Illuminations. They just go on forever with that finale! It's amazing. I'll never forget snagging a table on the Rose and Crown patio and just staring at that display. WOW!

Where did you develop your love of Disney?
My parents took us to the parks as kids. While I loved the Disney movies, I loved the parks more. As I mentioned -- Epcot had a certain hold on me. I just loved that place, and when I got older, I started booking trips while in college. I'd never stayed at the Disney resorts before, and staying for a long weekend at the Animal Kingdom Lodge while in grad school (free upgrade to savanna view) just knocked it out of the park for me. I've been hooked ever since.

If you had to choose parks or movies, which would it be?
Probably parks.

Which character do you associate with the most?
Which character is a bit confused, kind of slow, and likes to eat? Ah! Pooh Bear!

Does any forensic evidence exist linking you to the Kennedy assassination?
No comment. And the fact that I live very close to downtown Dallas means nothing.

Would you make any major changes to the current design of any of the parks?
This is a tough one. If I were to change anything, I'd hire a bunch of really smart people (like Imagineers) and tell them to do something new with DHS.

What is the most significant architectural feature of WDW?
Significant? Cinderella Castle. My favorites? The lobby of the Wilderness Lodge, Mary Blair's mural in the Contemporary, the Morocco Pavilion, and Norway's Stave Church.

What is the weakest Epcot country?
Italy. Include a gallery in the back of the pavilion. Have TWO restaurants, PLEASE! It's ITALY! I've traveled to several of the countries represented in Epcot's World Showcase, and Italy is by FAR the least well-represented. There's so much that could be done with that pavilion.

What is your favorite Disney guilty pleasure?
Besides writing the Food Blog? :-D The two things I love to do in Disney World are stay in nice hotels (definitely a guilty pleasure) and eat. We schedule our theme park activities around food. It's true. And while we exercise regularly while we're there, that's only to clear some space in our stomachs for the next meal.

I'm not kidding.

Where do you spend most of your time online when in the Disney-sphere?
I lurk and post on all of the major message boards and websites, but I spend lots of time over on (Disney social news website) and (info and forums). I also spend a LOT of time writing and maintaining the blogs and websites that I run.

You are the CEO and you have to cut one division: film, animation, parks, music, ABC, or ESPN. Where do you start cutting?
The live-action films of late have soured me on that division. Honestly, I can't believe I'm saying that, but it's true. Please remind me of some good ones, because I'm feeling pretty rotten about this answer.

Do you have any money we can borrow or have?
Yes, just give me your bank account number and authorization codes, and I'll have it transferred.

What do you consider the most historically significant or defining moment in Disney history?
I have no idea why, but I really feel like moving into 2719 Hyperion was a massive moment in Disney history. Walt had already had a roller coaster career, and putting roots down must have been gratifying.

How do you feel about Disney's stance to remove Song of the South and other period specific pieces from its association?
Sometimes we try too hard to make everybody like us.

If you could change one thing about a Disney Movie, what movie would it be and what would you change?
Remove Dwayne Johnson from the Disney payroll.

Which Disney Hotel could you live in for the rest of your life?
Again, I'd have to pick Wilderness Lodge. They have the best jogging trail. And s'mores are readily accessible over at Fort Wilderness next door. Plus they have duck races every day. Who else has duck races?

What is your favorite Disney book?
Peter Pan Little Golden Book. Again, nostalgia. As an adult, though, I love the Behind the Scenes Imagineering books of the WDW parks.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Book Review: Hidden Mickeys, A Field Guide to...

Steve Barrett is synonymous with the term Hidden Mickey.

You do know what a Hidden Mickey is, right?
A hidden Mickey is a partial or complete impression of Mickey Mouse placed by the Imagineers and artists to blend into the designs of Disney attractions, hotels, restaurants, and other areas.
The most common Hidden Mickey form is the tri-circle Mickey frontal silhouette: three circles that form Mickey’s round head and adjoining round ears.
Other images include a side or oblique (usually three-quarter) profile of Mickey’s face and head, a side profile of his entire body, a full-body frontal silhouette, a detailed picture of his face or body, or a three-dimensional Mickey. Sometimes, just his gloves, handprints, shoes or ears appear. Even his name or initials in unusual places may qualify as Hidden Mickeys. And don’t forget other characters such as Hidden Minnies, Donald Ducks, Goofys, etc.
--Hidden Mickeys Guide
Steve has just released the 4th edition of the Walt Disney World Field Guide and the 2nd edition of the Disneyland Field Guide. Each book measures 9" X 4", which makes it a great size to fit into your pocket or backpack while touring the parks.

This book is a great addition to your trip and will provide hours of entertainment while in the parks and resorts. Steve deftly states that it is not to replace the magic found in Disney parks, but to enhance your experience. The scavenger hunts are a way to provide another reason to visit the parks or to "liven up" a bored or distracted visitor. The repeat guest will also benefit from owning the book, especially if you are looking for a creative way to look at the parks in a different light.

One of the best uses of the Field Guides is with younger children while you wait in attraction queues or for your advance dining reservations. They can spend the time perusing the book and trying to find the hidden mickeys listed or you can distract them while getting them to use clues in the book.

My ten-year old son is an avid Hidden Mickey enthusiast and wanted to add to the review:
The Hidden Mickey is the term for a shape used to express the feeling for the beloved Disney Character Mickey. It is a Fun way to play Scavenger hunt through the streets of Walt Disney World!
If you want to spend some time searching for Hidden Mickeys, you won't find a better resource than Steve's guides.

As per recent FTC guidelines, I did receive both copies of the guides from the publisher for review. I do own and did purchase the previous editions for my personal collection.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Zip-A-Dee River Run

Michael Eisner became a proponent of building Splash Mountain the first time he saw the models that the Imagineers had built. It was a tenuous time for the Imagineers as their budget had been strangled by previous Disney bosses. The timely entrance of Eisner and his immediate buy-in to the Splash Mountain concept may have saved the Imagineers. See the quote from Disney War in a previous post. In fact, Eisner is credited with naming the attraction as well as suggesting it be presented as a mountain. Its working name was the Zip-A-Dee River Run. Marty Sklar recalls Eisner wanting to name the ride after the surprise hit Splash with Tom Hanks and Darryl Hannah that Disney lucked into. He even suggested adding Hannah's mermaid character to the attraction. Imagineers waffled on the name but held fast to the long understood and respected "Darryl Hannah ruins any attraction....guaranteed" mentality that permeated flume ride construction methods since the early 1400's.
Eisner tested the patience of the Imagineers by bringing his teenage son to the initial showing of the Splash Mountain model, calling his son an 'expert on theme park rides'. He was, in fact, their target market. Eisner's 14-year old son bought in once he saw the ride had the world's longest flume drop. This record was previously held by Andre the Giant's bathroom.

When the ride was nearing completion, Eisner insisted on the first test ride. He was covered in trash bags because the ride still had wet issues after the final descent. The ride passed his test as he asked to go again after the conclusion of the first test. Other accounts have Eisner getting drenched and after the ride saying he loved it but that the water was too much.

Hmmm....Eisner in trash prophetic.

The attraction has made residence in every Magic Kingdon-style park, except Hong Kong Disneyland and Disneyland Paris. In Toyko Disney, Splash Mountain has significantly reduced splash due to the colder weather (and the fact that the Japanese patrons do not like getting wet at theme parks).


Sunday, October 4, 2009

DVD Review: Mickey's Christmas Carol

Disney Animation Collection 7: Mickey's Christmas Carol (2009)

This is the seventh release in the Walt Disney Animation Collection Classic Short Films series. You can read my other reviews here and here.

Just in time for the Holiday Season, WDSHE (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment) has released a collection of four classic animated shorts. The headliner of the collection is Mickey's Christmas Carol which was originally released in 1983 along with the re-release of the Rescuers. We follow the familiar Dickens' tale with the addition of Disney characters in the lead roles. This short also marks the first time that Wayne Allwine voiced Mickey Mouse.

The second short is The Small One, which tells of a boy who must sell his beloved donkey since it is no longer strong enough to work. The boy takes the donkey to Nazareth since the boy's father wants him to sell the donkey. The short was originally released in 1978 in front of the re-release of Pinocchio.

Pluto's Christmas Tree is a very familiar 1952 Mickey Mouse short. Mickey is decorating his house for the holidays and decides to take Pluto with him to cut down a Christmas Tree. Normal Pluto antics ensue when it is discovered that the tree in their living room is also the house for Chip and Dale.
The last short is Santa's Workshop, a 1932 Silly Symphonies cartoon that is a musical look at Santa's Workshop at the North Pole. We see Santa going over the naughty and nice list, the elves caring for the reindeer and the machinations of the workshop.

The entire DVD clocks in at over an hour of animated holiday magic. It is sure to entertain the kids (and older kids-at-heart) during the upcoming season. Make sure to grab a cup of hot chocolate and a few of your favorite people to share these films with during the colder months.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Geek-End Update, Saturday, October 3, 2009